The first bellwether trial in the 3M earplug multidistrict litigation began last month in Florida. Bellwether trials are used to help both sides determine the likely outcome of other similar cases.
If the plaintiffs are successful, it could be a step toward a settlement of other cases. As of April 15, 2021, the 3M multidistrict litigation (MDL) included 229,111 pending cases. This is one of the largest MDLs in U.S. history.
Even though the first bellwether trial is underway, you may still be eligible to join the case to pursue compensation for hearing loss or tinnitus you suffered due to defective 3M earplugs.
Schmidt Kramer offers a free consultation to discuss your eligibility for filing a claim. You may be eligible if you used military-issued 3M earplugs and meet the following criteria:
- Served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Reserves between 2003 and 2015
- Were a Department of Defense contractor between 2003 and 2015
- Were diagnosed with tinnitus, bilateral or unilateral hearing loss, or both
- Received your diagnosis within one year of discharge or during enlisted service
- Do not suffer from preexisting hearing loss or tinnitus
- Do not suffer from any of the following conditions:
- Waardenburg Syndrome
- Branchiootorenal Syndrome
- Stickler Syndrome
- Usher Syndrome
- Pendred Syndrome
- Alport Syndrome
- Meniere’s Disease
Schmidt Kramer is here to answer your questions. Call (717) 888-8888.
Compensation That May be Available
You may be eligible to recover compensation for medical expenses related to your hearing loss or tinnitus, such as compensation to pay for hearing aids, surgeries and other medical treatment (prescriptions, cost of doctor’s visits, etc.).
You may also be eligible to seek compensation for lost wages and lost earning capacity caused by your impaired hearing. The value of lost earning capacity depends on many factors, including your age, education and work history.
Noneconomic damages may also be available, such as compensation for the pain and suffering caused by your hearing loss and lost quality of life.
The value of each case depends on the victim’s diagnosis and how it affects his or her life. It is important to review the situation with a licensed attorney to determine all damages suffered and their value. Recovering compensation can be an important step in helping to secure your future.
Background on 3M Earplugs
The earplugs in question, Combat Arms Earplug Version 2, were supposed to cause a significant reduction in the volume of explosions and other battlefield noises that could harm the inner ear (aircraft, artillery, guns, etc.). The earplugs still allowed wearers to hear quieter noises, such as talking nearby.
Repeatedly being exposed to battlefield noises can damage the eardrums, leading to tinnitus or partial or complete loss of hearing. That is why it is so important for service members to have some sort of protection in their ears.
These earplugs became standard issue equipment for military service members between 2003 and 2015. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had an exclusive contract with 3M.
Unfortunately, the standard design of these earplugs made it difficult for soldiers to put their helmets on properly. Aearo Technologies, which was eventually bought by 3M, redesigned the earplugs by shortening them.
While the redesign allowed service members’ helmets to fit better, the stem of the earplug no longer went deep into large or even normal ear canals. If the stem does not get deep enough into the ear canal, there is no airtight seal between the plug and the ear canal. The seal is essential to get a benefit from these earplugs.
In some cases, the earplugs simply did not block much loud noise. In other cases, they fell out of service members’ ears. Unfortunately, service members did not know the ear plugs were not working as they should.
Did 3M Know the Earplugs Were Not Working as Intended?
They may have, as they agreed to a $9.1 million settlement of a federal whistleblower complaint alleging the company knowingly sold defective earplugs back in 2018.
3M and Aearo Technologies were sued by Moldex-Metric Inc. in 2016 over allegations 3M defrauded the government by knowingly selling defective earplugs to the DOD. The lawsuit alleges the fraud perpetrated by 3M and Aearo likely resulted in thousands of soldiers suffering significant hearing loss and tinnitus.
3M admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. However, the lawsuit provided a lot of insight into what 3M knew about the earplugs. For example, they knew the earplugs were too short and could loosen and not perform as well as they were intended to. This information was not disclosed to the military.
The lawsuit revealed test results from January of 2000 showing the earplugs were defective. 3M falsified the test results to say the earplugs complied with military safety standards.
Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Claim
Unsure if you may have a case?
Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation with a Pennsylvania defective product attorney to discuss potential legal options. There are no obligations or upfront fees, which means there is no risk to you.
You may be eligible to seek compensation for damages. Product manufacturers should be held accountable if their products cause injuries to users. Taking legal action helps send a message and could help protect others from negligent conduct.
Free consultation. No upfront fees. Call (717) 888-8888.